By all accounts spiritual healing (faith or psychic healing) has been a part of the human experience since the dawn of history. The shamans of many cultures worked in this field. In the Western Judeo-Christian tradition both the Old and New Testaments are replete with examples of such spiritual or non-medical types of healing.
In many parts of the Old Testament, for instance, God himself is said to be the healer, as in Exodus 15:26, ''I am the Lord your healer,'' in Psalms 103:2-3,
''Bless the Lord oh my soul... who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,'' and in Isaiah 30:26, ''The Lord binds up the hurt of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.''
The prophets often looked to God as the great healer. But on occasion they themselves, it seems, could accomplish remarkable feats of healing, as when the prophet Elisha at one time is reported to have restored a dead boy to life, and at another time healed a Syrian military commander of a serious case of leprosy (II Kings 4:32-37 and 5:1-14).
But it is in the New Testament, and especially during the ministry of Jesus (or of the Christ working through Jesus), that the greatest number and variety of healings recorded in the Bible are found. Most remarkable of all, I suppose, is that on three different occasions Jesus is credited with bringing a dead person back to life.
The first of these is found in Luke 7:11-17. Jesus, on approaching the gate of the city of Nain with His followers, encountered a funeral procession where a man was being carried to the burial place. He was the only son of a widowed mother (we wonder whether the mother was dependent on this son for support). At any rate, ''when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, 'Do not weep.' And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still, and he said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise.' And the dead man sat up and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.''
The next case is that of the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus, a ruler of a synagogue. First Jesus sent out of the room the wailing mourners and everyone except the parents of the child and His three closest disciples, Peter, James and John. Then He took the girl's hand, spoke tenderly to her and lifted her up, reminding the parents to give her something to eat. The third and best known instance of someone being raised from the dead by Jesus is found in the 11th chapter of John.
It concerns a family consisting of the sisters Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. In this home Jesus visited upon occasion. At a time when Jesus was absent Lazarus had died, had been swathed in grave clothes and buried. Jesus, after talking to the sisters, was taken to the place of burial. There He dramatically ordered the stone removed from the door of the burial cave. Then He gave a prayer of thanks to God, and in a loud voice cried, ''Lazarus come out.'' When Lazarus did come out, still bound in the burial wrappings, Jesus commanded: ''Unbind him and let him go.'' (Symbolically, is that what the Christ is calling for us to do now ---- to come forth from our dark caves, get unbound and go free?)
Whatever people may think about whether these three individuals were clinically dead ---- as some briefly are before being brought back by medical science today ---- or whether they are thought to have been in deep trance or whatever, these raisings are considered to be among the greatest miracles. In addition to these miracles of restoration to life, Jesus, throughout His ministry, is said to have freed many, many persons from almost all kinds of afflictions: from fever to leprosy, from paralysis to epilepsy, from blindness to hemorrhage to demon possession ---- and more.
Some accounts in the gospels leave the impression that Jesus healed every afflicted person He encountered. But an account in the fifth chapter of John's gospel indicates that such was not the case. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem was a pool, close to which lay ''a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for 38 years.'' Jesus is reported to have selected just this one man, out of the multitude of invalids, for healing. Today we are told that, in the healing work done by the Masters of Wisdom, this can be performed only for those whose karma permits. Was that not also the case in Jesus' time?
In the vast amount of healing work that Jesus did, He employed a wide range of methods. When He entered Peter's home and found that disciple's mother-in-law confined to bed with a high fever, He simply ''touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and served him.'' (Matt. 8:14-15) This healing touch, described today as the laying on of hands, apparently was used by Jesus in many situations. In other cases He merely ''spoke the word,'' and the healing followed, instantly it seems. ''Go in peace, your faith has made you whole,'' was apparently a much-used announcement.
In at least one well-known case He used absent healing. A Roman military officer (a non-Jew, be it noted) approached Jesus, saying: ''Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home in terrible distress.'' When Jesus offered to come and heal him the centurion professed his unworthiness (being a Gentile) to have Jesus come under his roof, ''Say the word only and my servant will be healed.'' Jesus remarked that this was a greater faith than He had found among His own people of the nation of Israel, so He said, ''Go, be it done for you as you have believed.'' And the servant was healed at that very moment. (For the full account see Matthew 8:5-13.)
Now while most healings done through Jesus seem to have been instantaneous, we find at least one case, reported by Mark in chapter 8, verses 22-26, where it took two treatments to complete the cure. Apparently Jesus realized that this particular blind individual needed special treatment. So He took him out of the village, used saliva on his eyes (said to have been a treatment used by physicians at the time). After laying His hands on the blind man Jesus asked him, ''Do you see anything?'' He looked up and said, ''I see men, but they look like trees walking.'' Then again Jesus laid His hands on the man's eyes, and he looked intently and saw everything clearly. This is an interesting case of partial healing bringing inverted vision, which was then corrected.
Let it also be noted that Jesus' healing work was not limited to physical ailments, but sometimes included definite emotional and mental factors as well. For instance, as recorded in Matthew 9:1-7 (and parallel passages), when a paralyzed man was brought to Jesus, it was after Jesus said, ''Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven,'' that the man was able to rise, take up his pallet, and go home. And in all three of the Synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, many cases are cited of Jesus freeing people of demonic possession.
People today who do not believe that possession by discarnate entities is possible, naturally consider these to be cases of some kind of mental illness ---- if they give them any credence at all. Nevertheless, some of us today who are called upon to act as instruments of healing are quite aware that we have encountered cases of real or partial possession (as well as instances of imagined possession).
Considering that the belief in demonic possession was so pervasive in Jesus' time, it may be that some situations have been labeled possession where the facts might have been otherwise. For example, in the 17th chapter of Matthew we find a father bringing to Jesus a boy who was definitely epileptic, as the father said. Jesus cured the lad of that affliction, but it was recorded as the casting out of a demon. A number of other cases, however, are more convincing as to possession. The evidence, however, can be weighed only by persons whose minds are not closed against the possibility that there are entities in the post-mortem state who are temporarily 'earth-bound' and clinging to some living person, attempting to get vicariously some old addictive satisfaction. In some cases these entities are not truly evil and only need information, given in love, as to their situation and the joy and light which await them when they are willing to let go.
Finally, in relation to Jesus' healing ministry, it should be noted that important as it was to Him to relieve human suffering in this way, healing was not His highest priority. What held center stage for him was His work of preaching and teaching. One morning, after an evening of healing work, His disciples indicated that there were others in the town still waiting for His healing touch. His reply was, ''Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.'' A further indication of His down-playing the healing work is that often He would admonish a recipient of healing not to talk about it to others. He did not want to be known as just another healer.
During His ministry Jesus sent out first the 12 disciples, and later 70 followers, to preach the good news of God's love and to heal the sick and cast out demons. Their success is indicated by their returning with great rejoicing in reporting positive results beyond their expectations. Also, after Jesus' life with His disciples was over, they seem to have gone on doing much healing work. The healing power working through Peter and Paul was so great that each of them was credited with raising someone from the dead. (See Acts 9:36-41 and 20:9-12.)
Once the apostolic age was over, the work of healing through the church seems to have been on the wane. There were times, of course, when certain individuals were successful in this field of endeavor. And here in our 20th century we have seen a remarkable revival or renewal of spiritual healing in many branches of the Christian Church.
Most encouraging today is the development of what is called 'holistic' healing in many places. It is in its initial stages, it would seem, but more and more centers are forming where physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychics, clairvoyants and spiritual healers are beginning to work together in an effort to meet the needs of the whole person, both in preventive and curative procedures.
As we look to the immediate future we can rejoice at the prospect of multiplied thousands of individuals throughout the world being healed on the coming Day of Declaration of the Christ. Moreover we believe that many of the Masters of Wisdom, when They are openly working in our major cities, assisted by Their disciples, will lift the healing process to heights scarcely imagined before. In truth the whole world needs healing on many levels. Let us not doubt the fulfillment of this or any other part of the divine Plan.
This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming. This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright © Share International Foundation. Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated.
Download a copy of this book:
Copyright © Share International Foundation